So New Girl has had its second flashback episode (now it's time to do an Alternate Universe/what if? episode!) How did the recent "Clavado En Un Bar" stack up against last season's "Virgins?"
Well, I had high hopes when I saw the promo images of Winston's whimsical leopard-dyed hair, but his basketball story didn't quite deliver. It had trademark Winston-delusion (he called his career-ending injury a "decision"), but there's no way it could beat the story of his tryst with Mysteria.
Clavado En Un Bar: 0, Virgins: 1
Schmidt started as a candy striper (or, as Nick lovingly referred to "a 300 pound wall of peppermint bark"), but realized volunteering wasn't the way to get girls. So he began selling Christmas trees – and not long after, a Christmas tree mogul happened to die on his watch, and his last words? "You can take it with you." Together, these two experiences lead Schmidt to become the materialistic man he is today.
A charmingly Schmidt-appropriate tale, but his lube disaster with Elizabeth had more panache (and quite a bit more physical comedy).
Clavado En Un Bar: 0, Virgins: 2
Coach had less of a story: he yelled advice from the sidelines of a basketball court so well that he earned his nickname. As he sagely puts it, "Sometimes, the call comes from inside the house."
By default: Clavado En Un Bar: 1, Virgins: 2
We catch our first glimpse of Law School Nick: he transforms from Dreadlock Nick to Super Preppy Nick (preppy to the point that Schmidt compliments his scarf). Eventually, he finds himself studying at the bar – when the bartender literally falls asleep on the job, he realizes he's found his calling.
This story's got a twist, though: at the end of the episode, Nick reveals that he passed the bar exam, but became a bartender anyway. Interesting...what does this portend for Future Nick?
For that nugget of character development? Clavado En Un Bar: 2, Virgins: 2
For some reason, her first job was at an ultra-ritzy day school (complete with blazers, horses, and "an ethnic gay bully"). On her first day, she bonds with an adorably picked on kid – a sweet story, until the gang finds that said adorable child is now wanted on 53 counts of embezzlement.
That said, her awkward feminist prom date/crying tryst at the park/deflowerment-via-hot-fireman wins.
Clavado En Un Bar: 2, Virgins: 3
We already know how she became a model, but we do get a completely adorable flashback of her as "Jess' first student." Oh, and she gets a career change – looks like she's joining Nick at the bar.
Adorable children vs. Mick Jagger? Tie: Clavado En Un Bar: 2, Virgins 3
Winner: Virgins! "Clavado En Un Bar" was no slouch, though: it was one of the strongest episodes of the season (it certainly has one of the best Nick/Jess moments in recent memory) – maybe New Girl's in for a renaissance in this second half of its third season? Let's hope so!
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Ryan Murphy is one seriously busy dude. Not only is the writer and producer busy corralling the jazz-handed squadrons on Glee, but he's also scaring up ghosties for the second season of American Horror Story and launching the new gaybie comedy The New Normal. Where did he ever find time to give Vulture an interview?
Well, I'm glad he did, because we got all sorts of goodies about the next seasons of our favorite shows. As for Glee, Murphy says that the upcoming Season 4 gets the New Directions back to their underdog status, whatever that means. He says there are going to be fewer characters than ever (even though all the regulars from the cast will be back next year in non-central roles). He also says that Will Schuester will get something to do other than wear sweater vests and that Sue Sylvester will have a new villain to hate. Oh and (spoiler alert!) Will doesn't get married tonight. Oopsie!
All of this sounds very promising. However, I disagree with his assessment that the show is doing what it has always been doing and the only thing that's changed is critics' perception of it. The show is remarkably different from Season 1 and it's possible that a failure to acknowledge that is what makes a series that was once universally loved now nearly unwatchable to many.
Good news for Murphy fans though, is that Season 2 of American Horror Story sounds absolutely amazing. "It’s set in an institution for the criminally insane that Jessica Lange’s character runs, which is a really, really, really fun thing to do because you can write all these people locked up in it," says Murphy.
He adds, "And I guess if the first season was about infidelity, the second season is about sanity ... I haven’t said this publicly, but the new season is set in the sixties and Chloë Sevigny, for example, plays a character who was put in an asylum because she was a woman who likes sex, so her husband sends her away. At the time, you were able to put people away for that. Another character is institutionalized for being a lesbian." I was going to be watching already, but now I am more excited that Kurt Hummel at an ugly poncho warehouse sale. Who is Adam Levine going to be playing? A man who has multiple personality disorder and thinks he's Mick Jagger? Check out the rest of the interview where Murphy talks about his other new shows and One Hit Wonders a musical he's planning with Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, and Cameron Diaz. Yes, you read that right. Yes, your brain probably just exploded too. Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan [Image: Wenn.com] More: PSAs Glee Should Actually Release Glee's Ryan Murphy Is Making a Musical Movie Starring Gwyneth Paltrow Ryan Murphy Remakes Old Horrors with Lea Michele, Heather Morris & More — PICS
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.